OCT 2011 EIFEL NATIONAL PARK BIKE TRIP
October break finally arrives and we have no plans for extended travel. There’s too much to explore locally and the weather is Autumn cool and crisp. A bicycle trip emerges out of our wonderings about what to do, then the maps come out, and a short adventure starts to take shape. A trip to a camping/sporting goods store in Bonn outfits us with some bright orange (always a Billy color) panniers to hook to the back of his bike, while Ann has some smaller bags, together giving us enough space to go for some days.
Next it’s packing - think small, think light, think reusable! The weather looks to be in the 40’s ºF - 50’s (5 - 12 for our Centigrade friends), 2 days forecast mostly sunny and last day some rain, so it looks perfect for layering, and bring the ponchos along. We’ll be staying in hotels so no need to bring camping gear or extensive food stuffs - love that hot shower at the end of a long day of riding :)
Heading out from Bad Godesburg we start the first of many uphill climbs along our journey. 20 minutes into the ride we see a couple of a Goldwing motorcycles pulled over into a rest area. Always being interested in other Goldwing riders we drive in to say hi. A German man married to a French lady, both with quite good speaking English engage us in conversation as we discuss motorcycles, living in Germany and visiting the US. We exchange email and phone numbers and hope to see them again as they actually live very close to where we live in Bad Godesburg!
Ride, ride, ride - great bike paths, a lovely tail wind (boy will be do the pay back on that the next day, but at this point we don’t know that’s in the future!) farm land, rolling hills, orchards, and open vistas make up this part of the ride. Mechenheim, Rheinbach, Euskirchen, and then a gradual climb for 15 km up to Niddegen! We made it - about 85 km! Niddegen greats us with a castle and lovely old area with the obligatory church that is in every village, as well as old walled area with shops, restaurants and hotels. The Ratskeller Hotel looks rustic and lovely - can’t beat that name! The people are friendly, the room looks typical Germany - spotlessly clean - and they have a place to lock up the bikes. I was anticipating some hearty pasta or potatoes for dinner, but a local restaurant has Indian food and we can’t resist, so it’s chicken masala, biryani, and garlic naan.
The next morning breakfast at the hotel is waiting for us - here is what a German breakfast typically consists of: coffee or tea, juice, yogurt, various sliced meats and cheeses, bread, rolls, warm hard boiled eggs, fruit and condiments. It’s not what we’re used to, but has plenty of protein and carbs to get us on our way. In addition, we are told to take whatever we want with us, so we make sandwiches for the day along with some fruit and eggs.
We leave Nideggen the next day, the low sun seemingly like winter, and go to the visitor center for the Eifel National Park to pick up some literature and talk to the rangers there. This forest and scenic area promises a return as there are so many kinds of nature to explore that we won’t have time to do now. We start out on a forested path leading down to the river - part we have to walk our bikes down as it’s much too steep for our kind of bikes. Hold that brake on or the bike will run down the path! We pass lots of students doing technical climbing on rock cliffs. Then it’s mostly down hill to Heimbach but with a strong head wind.
Heimbach to Gemund looks really close on the map - hmmm.... no contour lines on this map. Up, up, up, up.... will it never end... up, up, up, up - Ann does the ride, walk, ride, walk routine up, up, up, up.... have we only gone 3 km? There is a beautiful Trappist monastery in the forest where we stop for a few minutes. More up and up and up and up until FINALLY we crest the top at Wolfsgarden. The next km fly by in a rush down the mountain to the town of Gemund.
Gemund to Kall, I don’t think I even remember this section except for the headwind... still recovering from that hill :) Kall to Nettersheim takes us along a path through fields and woods. Nettersheim is a small village but has a hotel and at this point, anything will do! Again, surprised and pleased we find a completely renovated, modern upper level on an old, historic property. Ann finds the bed and doesn’t move for a couple of hours, while Billy braves the mountain cold to bring back some food. A quart of orange juice was downed voraciously.
A good night’s sleep and another German breakfast sees us on our way again the next morning. The forecast is for light rain, so we put the ponchos at the top of the packs in ready position. Nettersheim to Blankenheim takes us on a bike path across fields with cows, sheep, rolling hills, then through some forest - continually amazes us with the bike access and beauty of the countryside. Billy has a hard time passing up a bakery for a couple ‘get warm’ snacks. Some English translator helped us in finding the head of the Ahr river. From Blankenheim we start on the cycle path along the Ahr Valley - this is the best part of the trip! The rain holds off and the pathway is beautiful - parts are paved, some hard packed dirt, we go through hills, forests, tunnels, along the river, each turn is a new surprise AND it’s mostly a gentle downhill cruise!! We don’t meet another bike or person for hours. As we get closer to the vineyards, the population of the area increases and we meet others along the roads and pathways. About 16:30 we need to decide what to do - stay another night or take a train home. We opt for the train, sit atop a vineyard and munch some snacks while waiting and the train whisks us home in half an hour.
The Ahr valley is so amazing with its numerous vineyards lining the steep hillsides. A final picture of the walled castle of Ahrweiller at sunset with some ‘dried on the vine’ thistles in the foreground ends this journey.
Loved it all - even the uphill day - although my thighs remember this journey for a couple days longer!